The mysterious helicopter involved in the Osama Bin Laden raid

Part 2: Exclusive new picture and a serial number on a piece of the broken helo

When I read the news reports describing the operation the US Special Forces conducted in Pakistan to catch Osama Bin Laden I wasn’t particularly surprised to read that a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying the Navy Seals crashed. What struck me were actually the pictures that were published by the Daily Mail (thanks to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads up!). They show what should be the remains of the Black Hawk crashed during the raid that killed Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, at Abottaville, north of Islamabad, Pakistan (officially, after experiencing a mechanical fault). Military on board the helicopter escaped safely on another helo while the downed one was destroyed leaving only few parts near the Bin Laden’s compound.

However, the depicted horizontal stabiliser and tail rotor of the wreckage don’t seem to be a any form of H-60. Both the shape and position are not common to either Black Hawks or Apaches helicopters. Noteworthy, the tail rotor has a weird cover that could be anything from a stealth cover, to an armour plate to a noise reduction device.

So, to answer to the many questions I’ve already received on Twitter: it can be either a modified existing type (to such an extent it is almost unrecognizable) or a brand new type (that was in fact destroyed before it could go in the wrong hands). I can’t either completely rule out the possibility that the one depicted in the pictures is not a conventional helicopter but some sort of decoy, an UAV or a reproduction…..

By the way, that’s not the only weird thing in the raid and many details of the story still have to be clarified. For example, official reports mentions four helicopters involved in the operation, without mentioning any support asset: I can’t believe no AWACS (E-3 or E-2) were involved providing the “picture”, as the risk of a Pakistan Air Force reaction was high. Furthermore, did the border radars see the formation entering the Pakistani airspace? If not, most probably it is because radars were deceived/jammed by (prob.) EA-6B or EA-18G flying in the Afghan airspace.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. The tail rotor section seems a bad and much to simple moke-up to me: I have never seen such tiny ‘blades’ without any mounting parts or construction details. The strange cover of the axis is more looking like a part of a chimney cap, than a part of a sophisticated helo. If the story is real and the fuselage of the helo should be laying behind the wall, than the position of the tail section is also rather strange; it lays upside down if this is caused by touching the (undamaged) wall… Too much questions en no recognizable details at all! Setup to mislead the crowd!

  2. Helicopters were flying at 1 AM, and were only carrying crew members. Most likely were not stressed at that temp and weight.

  3. In another picture, you see that a crane lifted this piece over a wall, away from the other, more twisted and mangled wreckage. My guess is, if this isnt from a UAV, they quickly put explosives inside the helo and the tail rotor is all that’s really left. As for the tiny blades, in the picture you can see there are 5, maybe 6 of them to the UH-60’s 4, but what strikes me as odd is the simple shape of the tail rotors blades, not like any LO designs ive seen in the past. All that being said, I can totally believe that SOCOM has stealth-modded, or purpose built stealth helos, and a lot of programs like this stay classified for a while

  4. i’d assume the wee tail rotor blades are optimized for sound rather than radar, i wouldn’t be surprised if the main rotor had more/smaller blades as well, to keep the tips of both sets from exceeding the sound barrier. it’s interesting to see the forward swept horizontal stabilizer on the tail section, this doesn’t jive with any helo i’ve seen.

    as far as the drone hypothesis, this would have been one huge drone given the size of the tail assembly..

    • Still very strange: if the tail section was separated from the fuselage due to the crash on the wall, than such a simple build wall must be damaged in a severe way! Every UH-60 variant is a bit more heavy than a Robinson R22 or so. Other strange thing is the minimal debris on the inner side of the wall; big parts like engines should be recognizable.

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